Microarray is an advanced molecular biology technique used to spot expressions of many genes at the same time. Gene expression is a crucial part of normal gene functioning and plays significant role in understanding normal growth and development of life. Any abnormalities in gene functioning can lead to critical disease. Research involving the study of many genes by traditional method is next to impossible. Microarrays serve the purpose. Thousands of genes can be arrayed at one time and analyzed accurately. It is fast, accurate, cost effective and easy to do assay design. Microarray can be used for many micro molecules such as DNA, RNA, proteins, and also for enzymes, carbohydrates, and tissues. It can be used for gene expression profiling, molecular interactions, biomarker profiling, enzyme activity, pathway identification, and mutations. Microarray is not limited to basic research, but has expanded to clinical research and diagnosis.
Based on type, microarrays can be segmented into DNA microarrays, protein microarrays, and antibody microarrays. DNA microarrays can be used for single nucleotide polymorphism-based diagnostics, forensic detection, gene expression profiling, etc. Large number of applications of DNA microarrays makes it a major segment of the Microarray Market. Protein microarrays are used in biomarker screening, enzyme substrate profiling, small molecule profiling, protein-protein interaction, etc. Antibody microarrays find applications in immunology in antibody specificity profiling, electronic immunoassays, etc.
In terms of application, microarrays can be segmented into gene expression profiling tool, comparative genomics tool, disease diagnosis, drug discovery, and toxicological research involving the uncharacterized microbial populations exposed to toxins and pollutants. With the help of microarrays some of the uncharacterized microbes can be identified and their original gene pattern and functionality can be studied. Microarray technology has provided a new insight into the evolutionary studies, as many arrays can be studied parallel that are specific for particular species.
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Microarrays can be used in comparative genomics and pathway probing. Microarrays provide information, though not complete but useful, about the gene or group of genes that can be studied further, illuminating the biological pathways. Microarray has helped in better understanding of some diseases, their pathogenesis, and genetics. Scientists are able to differentiate cancer on the basis of organs harboring tumor, leading to a better understanding of gene pattern in the tumor cells. Microarray has also benefitted therapeutics development. Better understanding of any drug addiction followed by better treatment in any patient is an example of it. In diagnosis of diseases, particularly at the time of outbreaks, where a quick and accurate diagnosis is required, microarray has gained recognition in identifying the causative agent or the pathogen and the specific strain or antigen (serotype).